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Why You Should Watch Classic Films

by Yo Prinzel

Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman in Casablanca.

There is nothing I love more than relaxing on a Sunday with a classic movie playing. William Powell and Myrna Loy in one of the Thin Man movies, a noir classic with Humphrey Bogart, a crazy, madcap adventure with Katharine Hepburn, a—wait a minute…why do you look so confused? Are you telling me that you don’t watch classic films? What–does black and white scare you? Does the lack of outrageous explosions and the ever-present, smoldering sensuality bore you? Well, let me convince you to change your ways.

The Benefits of Watching Classic Films

Get a history lesson… recorded live. When you watch classic films, it’s like getting a history lesson while also enjoying an interesting movie. Not sure what the Cold War was? Curious about World War I or II? There are movies that were written and created while these wars and crises were being waged! You can watch the changes in women’s issues, the introduction of Civil Rights, and the start of paparazzi and shock journalism unfold as it did in real life. Without even knowing it, the writers and directors of classic films created time capsules on celluloid that can help give you a three-dimensional understanding of world history.

Silent film great, Charlie Chaplin.

Find out about classic drinks by watching classic movies. If sex on the beach and apple-tinis are about the only drinks you know how to order, then you need to watch some post-prohibition classic films. You can learn about rocks, and no rocks, shaken and stirred, water and no water—club and no club. You can also discover how to look totally cool by ordering interesting, adult drinks like gin and tonic, scotch and water, and rye. Want some rye? ‘Course you do!

Learn quotes that make you sound smarter. “Don’t let’s ask for the moon. We have the stars.” That line, from the Bette Davis movie, Now Voyager, is my favorite quote. I whip it out all the time at parties, clubs, bars, business meetings…whenever I need a little something to make me seem more mysterious, deep and insightful. This quote never fails me—and it’s just one quote. There are many other insightful lines that could work in any situation. You just have to watch some classic films to pick up on them.

Learn a new accent. As much as I love classic films, I still don’t get the accent many of the actors tried to pull off in the days before dialect coaching. It wasn’t quite British…but it also wasn’t quite American…and it was certainly nothing in between. I like to call this the “General Vicinity Accent” because it fits into the general vicinity of many different dialects. Learn it and then use it when you want to sound worldly.

Remember how to be human. In all seriousness, the best thing about classic films is that they remind you how to be human. Sure, they aren’t as gritty or in-your-face as new movies. Instead of coming out and showing steamy sex,

Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy in Adam's Rib.

difficult relationships, or the realities of drug abuse and mental illness, they imply them. But they are even more human than new movies in their lack of forthrightness. After all, you don’t air all your dirty laundry, do you? Just like your secrets linger under the surface, so do the secrets in old movies. Reclaim classic principles like tact, privacy and pride by adding a couple of hours of Turner Classic Movies to your day.

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5 comments

swanpr October 15, 2010 - 3:20 am

I really love that last reason 🙂

Reply
Gry Strategiczne October 19, 2010 - 6:27 am

I like classical movies from years who was made befor second war.

Reply
Art of RetroCollage January 17, 2011 - 9:16 pm

That accept you like actually does have a name. From WikiPedia: “Mid-Atlantic English, (trans-Atlantic accent) is a cultivated or acquired version of the English language that is not a typical idiom of any location. It blends American and British without being predominantly either.”

TCM is a treasure.

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Tully Ellsberg February 15, 2011 - 3:17 am

I am looking for a movie that is about a wild girl who is unjustly
committed to a government run mental hospital. There she is extremely abused.
I can’t remember the title or the actresses name but I saw it on
Turner Classic Movies. Please help me find this gem.
Sincerely, Tully Ellsberg

Reply
Yo Prinzel February 26, 2011 - 3:30 pm

Hi Tully,

The only movie I can think of is The Snake Pit with Olivia de Havilland (she also played Melly in Gone with the Wind). In this movie, she has some suppressed memories and her husband has no choice but to institutionalized. While she isn’t really abnormally brutalized in the institution, the way things were in the 40’s was pretty deplorable, so it’s unpleasant.

Bette Davis and Joan Crawford were also in movies about women who were (at least temporarily) institutionalized, but I don’t remember anything particularly abusive about those movies. I might be able to help more if you know the names of anyone in the movie or the time period it was from (TCM plays movies from the 20’s-70’s so there’s a really broad range).

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